Def Leppard recently went back to the recording studio to make new versions of their classic 80s hits, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock Of Ages”, only the British rock group are calling their own re-recorded versions ‘forgeries’ to spite their record label, Universal.
The dispute originally arose between the band and Universal Music Group over the royalties and digital rights of their back catalogue. The band plan to continue to make ‘brand new, exact same’ versions of their songs in an attempt to wrestle control back from Universal.
Speaking to Billboard, frontman Joe Elliott explains how they came up with the solution to create ‘forgeries’ of their own material as a solution to get compensation for their work. Having completed “Sugar” and “Rock Of Ages” already, Elliott also said the band were planning on more once they’d finished their current tour with Poison and Lita Ford.
“When you’re at loggerheads with an ex-record label,” says Elliott, “who is not prepared to pay you a fair amount of money and we have the right to say, ‘Well, you’re not doing it,’ that’s the way it’s going to be… we’ll just replace our back catalog with brand new, exact same versions of what we did.”
Adding that, “our contract is such that they can’t do anything with our music without our permission, not a thing. So we just sent them a letter saying, ‘No matter what you want, you are going to get “no” as an answer, so don’t ask.’ That’s the way we’ve left it.”
Re-recording independently of Universal gives the band greater control of where and how their songs are used and sold, as well as giving them a greater cut of the profits. The task of recreating hits that are older 25 years old, and particularly Elliott competing with his younger self, is no easy task.
“Where am I gonna find a 22-year-old voice?” joked Elliott, “I had to sing myself into a certain throat shape to be able to sing that way again. It was really hard work, but it was challenging.”
Def Leppard were meticulous when it came to reproducing the songs with as much fidelity as possible, using the same key, same tempo in what Elliott calls “100% forgery”: “We had to study those songs, I mean down to the umpteenth degree of detail, and make complete forgeries of them. Time-wise it probably took as long to do as the originals, but because of the technology it actually got done quicker as we got going. But trying to find all those sounds…” says Elliott.
The new versions have already got the tick of approval from original producer Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange, who helped tip the band to the big-time with his work on 1983’s Pyromania and 1987’s Hysteria, after guitarist Phil Collen played him their new renditions.
“Phil sees Mutt a lot,” Elliott says, “and he played him the re-records and (Lange) couldn’t believe how brilliant they were. He was like, ‘Wow guys, incredible job!’ Phil was just raving about how much Mutt was raving about them.”
Elliott also confirmed to Billboard that they plan to re-record more of Def Leppard’s older material after finishing its current tour with Poison and Lita Ford wraps in mid-September. There’s no set plans for what they’ll tackle next, “if we’re gonna do them, it really doesn’t matter what order we do them in. It’ll be something you’ve heard of, no doubt,” says Elliott.
As for fans worried that cloning their past glories to stick it to their label will detract from their long-awaited new material? “We’re constantly thinking about it,” revealed Elliott, “we’re going to write on the road, and it’ll likely be, ‘Hey, I’ve got this idea for a song’ and we’ll play it around in the dressing room, and then when the tour’s over we’ll get together in short bursts and record a song or two, and then we’ll start piecing stuff together… you have this built-in thing that you should be making another album, but the world’s moving on and going, ‘You don’t really need to.'”
Have a listen to some preview clips of the ‘forgeries’ below: